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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Reporter Debrief: Checking In On COVID-19 In Quebec

An empty street in Montreal
Denis Tangney Jr.
In Montreal, efforts to reopen portions of the economy have left some residents with uncertainty.

Vermont's new confirmed case numbers of COVID-19 have remained fairly low the last few weeks, but neighboring states and the province of Quebec have seen higher rates of infection.

So, how are neighboring regions faring with the disease? And how are they planning to relax stay-at-home orders?

We're checking in this week with reporters in each state (and Canadian province) that borders Vermont about how the disease is spreading and how their local government plans to re-open the economy. In Quebec, Montreal has been the epicenter of the pandemic in all of Canada, with senior-care homes there heavily impacted. Still, Quebec Premier Francois Legault plans to re-open schools in the coming weeks.

VPR's Henry Epp spoke to CBC reporter Ben Shingler. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Henry Epp: Montreal's been the hotspot of COVID-19 cases in Canada. What's the status of the disease in the city right now, and in the province of Quebec more broadly?

Ben Shingler: The rate of transmission continues to go up in certain neighborhoods. So it depends really on where you're talking about. Where I live in the western part of the city, things have died down a bit, but in a neighborhood called Montreal North, things are much more difficult. So yeah, it really depends. And then outside of the Montreal area, things are much quieter, and there's not really the same rate of transmission at all.

Curious about how COVID-19 was playing out in Quebec early in the pandemic? Head here.

And what's the feeling right now in the city of Montreal in terms of life on the streets? In terms of businesses being open or not, I mean, is it still fairly quiet?

Well, we are in the process of opening up the province again, and I think people are trying to figure out exactly how to navigate that because we've been under some pretty severe restrictions for about two months. They've opened up retail stores and some manufacturing outside of the Montreal area, and we're about to open schools in the coming weeks and daycares. We're all trying to figure out exactly how to navigate that, but at the same time, maintain social distance. We're still seeing a lot of deaths in the long term care homes. So it's a lot to try and figure out exactly how bad it is, what we should be doing. So I think the mood is kind of a mix, you know, and it's getting to be warmer weather so we're of course wanting to be outside as much as we can.

More from VPR: Gov. Scott Allows Gatherings Of 10 Or Fewer

What's the timeline right now? I understand some things will open in Montreal later this month, but that's been pushed back a bit from what was initially hoped for by Premier François Legault. Is that right?

Yeah, that's right. They were supposed to open some retail businesses and a few other things next week. That was pushed back another week. So we're talking now the week of May 18 for schools, elementary schools and for a lot of retail. There's a lot of pushback from teachers. Some parents are worried about sending their kids back and they say they won't. So we're expecting a lot lower enrollment than usual. Maybe about half, we'll have to see. But there are all sorts of restrictions in the classroom as well. It's going to be a real change. There's a limit of 15 students per class. There has to be social distance between children. This is all very difficult to navigate. If you know children, it's hard to keep them apart. We're still trying to figure out exactly how it's going to work and it's coming pretty fast.

For a timeline of Vermont's response to COVID-19, head here.

What's been the general reaction to this push to reopen from the public? I mean, are people on board with it or are they wary of potentially exposing themselves to the virus again?

There have been a lot of worries about the opening. We're moving more quickly than other provinces. We also have the highest number of cases, so it's hard to square those two things. Some school boards say they don't want to reopen. The premier has said it we will reopen. But as I said, some parents are planning not to send their children. But at the same time, you know, if you have kids, you would know that it's not easy at home. I, for instance, have two little kids at home, and we're working full time. So we're trying to figure out how to care for them and at the same time do our jobs. A lot of people are in that situation. And as the province tries to open up again, and open up more businesses, people will need to go to work and the children will need to be able to go somewhere as well. So it's really a challenge and there are a lot of different opinions about whether the government is doing the right thing or not.

Have questions, comments, concerns or experiences with the coronavirus you would like to share with VPR? Take our brief survey.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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